Blame it on Audubon. Or how I became a fine art appraiser, Part Two.
As I assembled my small library of Audubon books and read further, I was very pleased to find that Audubon was himself a highly dedicated writer who had kept journals of his travels and birding expeditions throughout his lifetime.
One book, "Audubon in Florida" first published in 1974 from the University of Miami Press was especially helpful in identifying the birds that were the Florida species that he found and rendered life-sized in his original watercolors. The book's author Kathryn Hall Proby ( b. 1921 ) draws much of her material directly from Audubon's "Orinthological Biography, Or an Account of the Habits of the Birds of the United States of America" that was published in Edinburgh between 1832 and 1839. It was issued as sixty episodes in five royal octavo sized leather bound volumes. Eleven of the sixty episodes are based on Audubon's Florida travels.
Audubon is shown here in an engraving by H.B. Hall of the 1833 portrait created by American artist Henry Inman ( b. 1801 - d. 1846). It was said that the 1833 Henry Inman oil painting was the portrait that Audubon personally liked the best.
Ms. Proby also was kind enough to include a chronology and Audubon's detailed descriptions of each bird in her book. This information was instrumental in my new task of searching through the archives of materials at the Audubon Museum in Kentucky. As a result of my search I found a number of the large engravings, but only a few that met the specific Florida trip criteria.
What I discovered among other items I was shown, (including the little 1834 silver commemorative cup), was simply amazing. There were personal letters, rare books, original watercolors and oil paintings, and may important Audubon family heirlooms and personal items, including Mr. Audubon's personal gold seal ring . The ring holds a carnelian stone inscribed with an American Wild Turkey and the artist's personal motto: "America my Country" '
The first Audubon watercolor that was made into a copper plate engraving for "The Birds of America" was the male American Wild Turkey. The large game bird was printed by William Lizars in Edinburgh in 1826 on Double Elephant Folio size (39.5" high by 29.5" wide) high quality cotton rag J. Whatman paper.
Audubon insisted that all of his birds be accurately represented in their natural surroundings and shown in their full size. The engravings were printed in black ink and then meticulously hand colored with watercolors under the strict supervision and guidance of Audubon. Audubon's standards were very high and William Lizars employed a number of professional colorists to do the exacting work. Unfortunately the professional colorists went on strike and only the first twelve copper plate engravings of birds had been produced.
So in less than a year of production Audubon found himself in need of a new master printer.
With master printer William Lizars no longer able to produce his prints, Audubon traveled to London where he met master printer Robert Havell and his son Robert Havell Jr. Beginning in 1828 Audubon and the younger Havell's collaboration would last a full twelve years and produce hundreds of additional hand colored engravings of his birds for a sum total of 435 altogether.
As a token of gratitude for the completion of the second volume of the prints six years later in 1834 Audubon presented Havell with the little commemorative silver cup. The inscription reads:"To Robert Havell from his Friend John James Audubon,1834".........
For more information and an absolute must for any collector or student of Audubon's work I definitely recommend "Audubon Art Prints :A Collectors Guide to Every Edition" written by Bill Steiner and published by University of South Carolina Press in 2003. Do yourself a favor and make sure that you read the FOREWARD written by my friend Don Boarman , the former Curator of the Audubon Museum at Audubon State Park in Henderson, Kentucky.....
As you can see I have an inclination to explore and wander a bit in my writing so in Part Three I will try to get back to explaining just how the Audubon exhibition was responsible for my becoming a professional fine art appraiser.
End of Part Two.......